Labour will be tougher than IDS on benefits, promises party’s new welfare chief Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves said that under Labour the long-term unemployed would not be able to 'linger on benefits'. Photograph: Rex/Ray Tang
Rachel Reeves said that under Labour the long-term unemployed would not be able to ‘linger on benefits’. Photograph: Rex/Ray Tang

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Labour will be tougher than Tories on benefits, promises new welfare chief” was written by Toby Helm, political editor, for The Observer on Saturday 12th October 2013 19.53 UTC

Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing the benefits bill, Rachel Reeves, the new shadow work and pensions secretary, has insisted in her first interview since winning promotion in Ed Miliband’s frontbench reshuffle.

The 34-year-old Reeves, who is seen by many as a possible future party leader, said that under Labour the long-term unemployed would not be able to “linger on benefits” for long periods but would have to take up a guaranteed job offer or lose their state support.

Adopting a firm party line on welfare, the former Bank of England economist stressed that a key part of her task would be to explode the “myth” that Labour is soft on benefit costs, and to prove instead that it will be both tough and fair.

“Nobody should be under any illusions that they are going to be able to live a life on benefits under a Labour government,” she said. “If you can work you should be working, and under our compulsory jobs guarantee if you refuse that job you forgo your benefits, and that is really important.”

She added: “It is not an either/or question. We would be tougher [than the Conservatives]. If they don’t take it [the offer of a job] they will forfeit their benefit. But there will also be the opportunities there under a Labour government.

“We have got some really great policies – particularly around the jobs guarantee and cancelling the bedroom tax – that show that we are tough and will not allow people to linger on benefits, but also that we are fair. Where there are pernicious policies like the bedroom tax, we will repeal them.”

Under Labour’s jobs guarantee scheme – arguably its biggest policy announcement so far and one that party strategists are frustrated has not received more attention – under-25s will be offered a job after one year of being unemployed, while over-25s will be offered one after two years out of work.

The scheme, which will be paid for by reinstating a tax on bankers’ bonuses, would, Reeves said, take 230,000 long-term unemployed people off benefits and be a more effective in returning people to work and cutting benefits than anything the Tories were offering.

Reeves’s remarks, made just days after she replaced Liam Byrne in the key shadow cabinet job, reflect a recognition that Labour will be punished by voters if it is seen to be too focused on opposing cuts, particularly cuts to benefits.

Last week Labour’s own pollster James Morris said the party faced a “very severe” challenge in overcoming the Conservatives’ opinion poll leads on benefit cuts. He pointed to a TUC survey which showed that 64% of key Labour/Conservative swing voters backed the government over benefit cuts.

Reeves said she faced three challenges in her new role. First, to show that Labour is on the side of “ordinary people struggling with the cost of living crisis”, while demonstrating that it would run a social security system fair to those in and out of work. Second, she wanted to hold Iain Duncan Smith to account for his “incompetence” over the botched introduction of a new merged-benefit system, universal credit, and third to promote a Labour alternative vision of “responsibility, decency and fairness”.

She challenged the idea that this government has controlled benefits. “Compared with 2010 the government is spending £9bn more now on social security. More people are long-term unemployed, more people are on housing benefit, and 4.8 million people are being paid less than a living wage, up from 3.4 million in 2009.

“So you have got more people in work claiming tax credit and housing benefit to make ends meet. You have got a million people on zero-hours contracts… you have got 1.5 million who are working part-time who want to work full-time.”

Reeves hinted that Labour would make a manifesto commitment that public-sector procurement contracts would only go to companies that paid a “living wage”.

“You could absolutely do things through procurement. You could make a decision that all your contracts could be living-wage contracts. It is something I think is a good and really exciting idea,” she said.

She was cool, however, about another element of work developed by Byrne – plans to shake up the welfare state so that benefit payments would vary according to past contributions – the so-called contributory principle.

“It is not easy,” she said. “If you increase what you give to some people then presumably you have to reduce it for others. We are not in an environment where there is more money around. It is a difficult thing to achieve.”

Asked if she agreed with the government’s £26,000-a-year benefit cap, she said she backed it, though she added that Labour would look at regional variations to reflect prices. “I think it is right that those people who are in work do not feel that those who aren’t in work are getting something that they couldn’t dream of getting.”

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Comments
  • jed goodright October 14, 2013 at 9:24 am

    The labour party have betrayed disabled people and the poor and the unemployed. They are shafting the population in their quest to look ‘better’ than the tories. They obviously believe this is good. They are criminals. they are following fascist policies dreamt up by tories who have NO EVIDENCE for what they claim. The Labour party can go fuck itself. The amazing thing is they give credence to that twat Duncan Shit – WTF are they doing????????????????????

  • […] ← Labour will be tougher than IDS on benefits, promises party’s new welfare chief Rachel … […]

  • Peachy October 14, 2013 at 9:51 am

    I have a teenage son- a very bright (139 on nation reading score tests, scores go up to 140) talented (he wants to work in fashion design) child with autism. The last few weeks he has been talking about being worthless and wanting to die, he says it’s related to bullying at school but ‘the Government know disabled people are crap freaks and that’s why they cut everything’. I have spoken to school today and help is being arranged but I am beyond furious that the horrid musings of this lot of politicians is causing my wonderful boy to feel suicidal. What the eff do they want to achieve?89

  • Peachy October 14, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Sorry about random 89, kitten on keyboard

  • Boadacia Iceni October 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    At least we know that the future is going to be the benefit parasitic political puppets and the Hooray Henrie/etta’s versus those that are born without a few million inheritances. So we will have the choice of joining the killer Mafia mercenaries, or being slaves forever.

    One couldn’t write a book with more unbelievable shyte in it, than we hear and read spouted today. Oh, … maybe one could, and it was called ‘Animal Farm.’

  • Humanity2012 October 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    A Sacking is Certainly in Order

    The Opposition is Supposed to be an Opposition Not
    an Alternative Tory Party

    I am so Pissed Off with these Knuckleheaded Politicians
    in Cloud Cuckooland

    They Screwed Up the Country Fishing Industry Shipbuilding
    Car Building Mines ETC

    Tax the Rich Hands Off the Poor

  • Humanity2012 October 14, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    These Politicians Certainly Do Not Know Poverty or how to Run
    a Country

    A Socialist Britain Not a Slavery Britain

  • PAULA October 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    BANG ON MATE, CRIMINALS LOOKING AFTER CRIMINALS!

  • Peachy October 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Yes I think I agree- with the caveat that jobs are allocated according to accessibility (no point saying bus route if job ends at 3am and tehre’s no bus!) and childcare (same problem). It has to work alongside decent assessments for disability and support needs though, and that’s just not happening. People’s desperation shouldn’t be funding big business profit.

  • kasbah October 14, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    She is playing to the prejudices of the Right- Mr. and Mrs. Daily Mail and their likes. It is truly sickening that Labour will not step up and initiate a fair system that is fit for purpose and based on realities, rather than booting those of us with disabilities and others facing unemployment, in the goolies over and over again.

    I am shocked and upset by her horrible language and her disgraceful attitudes. Strangely enough I had just e-mailed Labour asking for details of their plans re. WCA and ATOS and PIP, when I saw and read this article.

    Perhaps the 11 million of us with disabilities/chronic illness should make our feelings known and ALL e-mail the Labour Party to get clarity re. disability benefits and WCA and show our disgust for RR. Come on folks!

  • David Calvert October 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    The only thing these policies will achieve is more deaths, I wonder if any of you have visited your local cemetery recently? The amount of young people dead within the past few years is a worrying correlation. The fact these people have no obituary in the local newspaper is due to the fact it cost money and many people are destitute with nobody else to mark their passing. For the others who cannot even afford expenses at death it will be a state funded appointment with the crematoria and their existence on this earth gone forever as their ashes are strewn. The only difference between the Steelworks Furnace Used to Kill Muslims in Bosnian Genocide is the fact that the vulnerable in this country are being broken down driven to their death first. Of course what is the coroners verdict…………..Self NEGLECT!
    As they used to tell the conscripts being sent to Vietnam, there going to kill you, there going to kill you. People smell the coffee this is just like social cleansing this is Britain, people died to keep this country free, this county now needs not a new government but a new system of governance!

  • jed goodright October 14, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    there won’t be a reply Martin
    I’ve written to them often and all I get is ‘thank you, this will be passed to the relevant department’

    The relevant department doesn’t exist – just like the labour party, it doesn’t exist, it is a fraud.

  • mark harding October 14, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    its unbelievable that these cretins think its a lifestyle choice to live on 71 quid a week i am lucky i have a job but i have tried to live on that amount and it is nigh on impossible, what happened to socialiasm what happened to believing in the collective rather than the individual . they have just lost my vote

  • Boadacia Iceni October 15, 2013 at 9:38 am

    As we all wallow in betrayal and the masses suck up and actually pay for the daily lying propaganda, there won’t be any hope until the slaves take over!

    Much more pain to come yet, until so many more realise they are dispensable fodder in a cruel tyrannical system run by those that despise them.

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